Catholic birthmothers to legislators: Help us heal
We applaud the House of Representatives for passing House Bill 6105 earlier this month. The bill removes a date-based restriction and restores the right of every single Connecticut adult adoptee to obtain their original birth certificate. This is the state of the law as we knew it when we relinquished our children, for those of us who did so in Connecticut prior to 1975. It is right to restore the law governing this issue to reflect the assurances we had at that time.
While we commend the House for approving House Bill 6105, we have to admit we white-knuckled through the three-hour debate. At some point, the conversation always becomes about us instead of remaining as it should: about restoring rights to adult adopted persons.
When the conversation becomes about us, myths and assumptions abound. It is widely recognized we have endured a trauma by losing our children to adoption, but the overwhelming majority of us are actively trying to heal in the face of this trauma. We do so by regaining our voices and our power that was lost at relinquishment. We form groups like the Catholic Mothers for Truth & Transparency, Concerned United Birthparents, hundreds other support groups, and share our stories in printed memoirs and mass media programs.
We heal when we speak up, which we have done for many years. Over the last five years, almost 2,000 of us have gone on public record by submitting personal and/or collective testimony in support of this bill. But “the one woman who doesn’t want to be found” dominates the airwaves. Ironically, many of us were once that woman, but we have come to discover that the guilt and shame piled on us was necessary to render us powerless so we would relinquish. Shedding the shame is part of the healing. We are here and we have been talking to you for years yet “the one woman” seems to be the only one at the mic.
No one wants to protect “the one woman” more than us. She is our sister in pain. She lives with the conviction that she is not good enough, and her pregnancy defined her self-worth forever. Her family sees her as the woman she is, her love, accomplishments, and strength but she is blinded by her past. She lost her baby because she believed that if she really loved that baby, she would give him away and forget about him.
Think about that. Could you ever forget you had a child? Would you wonder about that child for the rest of your life? If you have eight minutes, watch us talk about this at a recent meeting. We wanted to parent our children but the system was not set up to support us. It was set up to separate us. So we carry a disenfranchised grief around since losing our children to adoption and that grief can only become lighter when we learn our sons and daughters are okay, no matter how old they are today.
What opponents either don’t understand or are ignoring is that our sister in pain is actually more protected through House Bill 6105 than she is under current law. House Bill 6105 shepherds her to the safest place possible in today’s world given the reality of consumer DNA testing. Instead of forcing adoptees to out themselves and their connection to us publicly online to a bunch of distant relatives we have in common, they can come straight to us which we both prefer because it’s private and it’s dignified.
Our sister in pain is hurting, yes, but she’s one of us, a strong and competent adult woman who is capable of managing her own affairs, including her relationships with other adults. This bill ensures her a private avenue where she and her adult son or daughter can decide if/how they want to proceed on their own terms. House Bill 6105 gives her her voice back, the one she was denied so many years ago. We are here offering her light and healing, a sentiment we are proud to share with the catholic faith.
While we did not feel we had other options, we knowingly signed those papers. Most of us have never seen them. Our understanding, though, was that we were giving up all rights to our child. We did not know then, nor do we believe now, that we retained any kind of control over our sons’ and daughters’ right to get their original birth certificate as adults.
Opponents don’t see the great irony that happens when they force their colleagues to center the conversation around us. We weren’t considered good enough to parent our children back when we were pregnant and unwed, but now that our children are adults, opponents pedaling our silenced-sister’s-alone-in-pain story only draws us forward to speak for ourselves, thereby blessing supporting legislators’ efforts with permission to enact a law that treats them— our grown-up children whom we were not allowed to parent— as the adults they are.
If opponents really want to protect us and our silenced sister in pain — they should support House Bill 6105. We appreciate the legislative process and support a robust debate in the Senate but we want to hear a lot less about us as teenagers and young women, less about our babies as if they never grew up because the fact is the youngest of them is pushing 40-years-old today. In exchange, we want to hear a lot more about the people who truly belong at the center of this conversation: the men and women who have lived at least half their adult lives waiting for you to let them act with privacy and dignity on the basic human need to know who they are and where they come from.
A vote against this bill is not only a vote against equality but a vote to extend pain and suffering, a vote to delay healing. It is right, just, and merciful to enact House Bill 6105— and we think being right, just, and merciful is exactly the kind legacy the Connecticut General Assembly should leave on our collective consciousness as a nation reckoning with its history of shaming women into the shadows of silence and secrecy. It starts with acknowledging truth and it ends with being on the right side of history. We promise.
Eileen Woebse McQuade and Karen Galarneau Quesnel are cofounders of Catholic Mothers for Truth & Transparency, headquartered in West Hartford.
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